Praying with Jesus in Capernaum

Being with Jesus in the Ignatian style of prayer (see https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/ignatian-spirituality/examen-and-ignatian-prayer/praying-the-ignatian-way-reflective-prayer/)  I found myself praying with Jesus in Capernaum this week.  Sometimes it’s hard to find time for prayer in the busy of the winter, but we can use our imagination and be with Jesus if we can prioritize some time to be in prayer.

This winter season has been busy with ill children.  The schedule for today was full, a mix of routine care with children who were mostly ill with upper respiratory infections and its secondary bacterial infections.  After waking up early around 4 am and not being able to go back to sleep, I decided to get ready to go work.  Illnesses presented themselves in many forms, from simple colds to ear infections, pneumonias and bloody stools.  Routine care visits sprinkled the schedule throughout the day, including well child visits and ADHD follow ups.  Every parent had an opinion of their child’s illness and part of my job was to educate them on the current illness and how to help their children get better.  It was a hard pace to keep up, to the point that sometimes it was a challenge trying to figure when it was a good time to go to the bathroom.

Nevertheless, after working for almost 12 hours, I came home, had dinner with Anne, took a shower and proceeded to pray in the Ignatian style of prayer.  As I centered myself and prayed with God our Father, I closed my eyes and began to place myself in Capernaum with Jesus.   The gospel readings this week in January have been from the Gospel of Mark, starting with Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (Mark 1: 9-11) and hearing, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The Holy Spirit then takes Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13) where he is tempted by Satan for 40 days.  He then goes to the Sea of Galilee and begins to call his disciples, first Simon and his brother Andrew, and then James and John, sons of Zebedee (Mark 1:16-20).  They then head to Capernaum and Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  Upon learning that Simon’s mother-in-law is ill, they go to her place.  It is here that I begin my prayer.

I can see that the house is rustic.  Simon’s mother-in-law is in a room by herself, the entrance is covered with a red curtain.  Jesus proceeds to enter the room and I can see empathy in Jesus’ facial expression as he looks at her.  He holds her hand and closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and just rests with her.  It’s as if his energy if flowing out to her and soon thereafter, she opens her eyes and smiles.  As Mark states in the gospel reading, “The fever left her, and she began to wait on them” (Mark 1:29-31).  Jesus thanks our Father for helping him heal her.

Many others come for healing that evening: leprosy, pneumonias, stomach ailments.  It turns into a long day for Jesus, and he decides to get up early the next morning to pray.  I decide to join Jesus in prayer and head out in the cool morning.  There is dew on the grass and the sun light is just barely coming up in the horizon.   I close my eyes while Jesus and I sit together in this solitary field under a fig tree.  We pray in quiet as we feel the Father’s peace and love.  For a moment, we are one with the Father, feeling God’s love for us.  It is here that we find our source of energy, full of love, as we ready to tackle another day to heal people.  I thank Jesus for letting me be with him, we smile at each other, and proceed to look straight ahead as the sun continues to rise.

References

https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+1&version=NIV

This Christmas 2023

I can already see our street lined with luminaries.  It is a tradition that our neighborhood has been doing for about 40 years.  I am not sure if we’ll have snowflakes coming down on Christmas Eve as the last few years have been warmer than usual and we have not had snow, but families will be strolling on the sidewalks with their kids, a family-feel to the evening.  The Holy Family will be in my thoughts as I get ready for mass.

I think about Jesus’ birth, and I feel engulfed with love from St. Joseph, our Blessed Mother Mary, and God our Father.  I can see them in the manger, with animals nearby and the shepherds looking in awe.  It is an image that I have drawn from the Bible passages, from readings in school, and from paintings.  It is a picture created by my intellect, my imagination, and my memory.

But being a Christian pushes me to go deeper into my heart and beyond my intellect.  I experience God in my heart as I encounter experiences in life, and if I’m humble enough and don’t get busy in my mind, I can hear God whisper to me expressions of love that God has for me, “John, you are my beloved son.”  I can read as much as I want about God and Jesus, and admire the beautiful art on display, but in the end, I need to experience God in my heart.

As Pope Benedict XVI states, “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but an encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Father Richard Veras in Magnificat, November 2023).

Further, in Benedictus Day by Day (December 24), Pope Benedict XVI states, “God is not a conclusion we have reached by thinking, which we now offer to others in the certainty of our own perception and understanding … when we talk of the living God, it means: this God shows himself to us; he looks out from eternity into time and puts himself into relationship with us.”

Thus, I find myself in relationship with the baby Jesus as I try to practice love, being charitable and merciful.  I look forward to being in relationship with my family and friends.  I give myself with my time and my love for them.  I may also consider giving a gift as an expression of my love.  If you are looking for gift ideas for your children, spouses or relatives, you can visit the Catholics Online website and claim a free Cozy Catholic Christmas Catalog.

But in being together, we share our stories of joy and hardship.  We support each other as Jesus supported the disciples, both in times of laughter but also in distress, like consoling Mary Magdalene at the resurrection (“Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:11-18) or Peter when he thought he might drown (Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-33).   These interactions with the disciples extend to me as Jesus takes care of me and loves me.  But I also may reciprocate this love for Jesus.

As the Baby Jesus lays in the manger, I am tempted to pick him up and cradle him in my arms.  He is so fragile and so dependent on us that I want to feed him, change his diaper, maybe rock him to sleep.  I can smell his baby skin and find peace in my heart as I listen to the small breaths.

It is an experience of Jesus loving me and I am also loving the Baby Jesus.  It is this Baby Jesus who takes care of me, soothes me, and loves me.  And in this experience, as my cup is filled, I can pass this love to others, including those I don’t know but I see on the streets as they wonder where they will stay for the night to get relief from the cold.

So, in this Advent Season, as we wait and approach Christmas Eve, I hope you feel Baby Jesus’ unconditional love for you so that in turn you can pass it on.  Merry Christmas and Happy New year!

Mental Health & Emotions

Mental Health & Emotions (an excerpt from the AAP)

 

Talking about mental health and our emotions this month of November, after our kids have been in school for a couple of months, seems like a good topic of conversation for us parents.

School-aged children and teens deal with emotions that sometimes can adversely affect their performance during the day. Anger, over issues both small and large, can create bad moods that affect not only the child/teen but everybody else around them.

Sometimes emotions may be a result of stress. This can cause issues like irritability, poor sleep, changes in eating and social withdrawal. If there is enough disturbance in their daily life and performance, then it’s a good idea to step in as parents to help them out.

You can start by extending an invitation for discussion but don’t be surprised, and don’t force the issue, if they are not ready to talk yet. Simply provide a physical and emotional presence as you wait for them to take you up on that invitation. If you have an idea about what is going on, you can share your feelings of similar situations you may have experienced yourself. Open ended questions in a non-judgmental way can lead to good discussions.

Real life experiences are a great way to teach them how to manage their emotions. If there is a final message on these teaching points, it is that they need to learn that emotions happen, and they do not control our lives. It is possible to approach this in a methodical way, and as a parent, we always have to make sure we remain emotionally in control and balanced. Learning how to identify these feelings is the beginning of knowing what is going on with that bad mood. It is possible that we may have to role model and talk it out for them if they are having difficulty identifying their emotions. Next up, we need to teach them they can regulate emotions and thereby reduce other behavior problems. For one child it may be sitting in a comfortable spot to read a book but for another it may be burning some energy in the back yard before they come back in for a snack. Teaching them to be responsible for their feelings (so they don’t take it out on others) and learning some resiliency (they can change their mood) is a good start to a healthy mental state.

Developing resiliency is a good way to realize they can be in control of their emotions… So not only can they can deal better with stress and anger, for example, but they can extend this to other emotions such as fear and anxiety that may lead to self-doubt and lack of confidence. Your child may be curious about trying out for the soccer team, but they are not sure. A gentle push and acknowledgement of these feelings can help them try it out. These opportunities, in turn, may lead to some failures and mistakes, that when framed in a positive and teachable moment, can lead to growth and eventual self-confidence.

Here are some other tips to help your child develop a positive mental health:

  • Enjoy the outdoors. Sunshine boosts your mood!
  • Get enough sleep. This is about 11-12 hours for a 5-year-old, 10 hours for a 10-year-old, and 8 hours for a 15-year-old.
  • Eat meals on a regular basis, starting with a good breakfast. Avoid sugar highs from junk food and fast food.
  • Help your child practice gratitude and appreciation.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Teach your child to be kind to people and help others. It’s amazing how happy our hearts feel when we get involved in helping others, from as simple as holding a door open for somebody.
  • Turn off the TV and electronics and play outside or play family board and card games.
  • Teach your child about mindfulness, yoga or meditation. These are good techniques to reduce stress.

If you feel that emotions and stress have led your child or teen to significant anxiety or depression, let us know as we may be able to help and may provide other solutions. We are here for you!

(I originally published this article on Bronson’s web site, https://www.bronsonhealth.com/news/pediatric-news-/)

References and other reading:

Making Friends in School

It can be a challenge making friends in school if you are new to the school or neighborhood.  The beginning of the school year can be a lot of fun for kids as they share and exchange stories from the summer activities:  camping, fishing, making trips to see relatives, playing sports or going to camp. Seeing their friends in school is a great opportunity to share and exchange stories. But what if your child wants to make different friends from last year, or just simply make new friends?

Your child’s temperament can play a role if they tend to be shy. In addition, kids need to have the social skills to make connections with other kids. The challenge for any parent is how to help your child step out of their comfort zone and have the grace to create a relationship with another child.

For a child that is shy and perhaps introverted, helping them build social confidence can go a long way. Start out by setting examples at home.

Start at Home

A good place to help your child identify the values that are important to you is to practice at home. Talk with them about what you value most in a friendship, such as:

  • Showing respect for others
  • Playing in a fair way
  • Sharing with others
  • Talking in an encouraging and positive manner

Lead by Example

We should not underestimate how much our children are observing our behavior. When we have a good relationship with our child, we are more likely to influence them with our values. Having a good relationship with your child implies:

  • Being involved in activities together
  • Talking often (try doing the dishes together to set up for an easy conversation)
  • Showing affection for each other

This in turn will help your child seek out other children who may share the same types of values and feelings.

Be a Host

We can take opportunities to get to know other children through school activities, from neighborhood parties, sports events, art camps and other get togethers. By hosting get togethers, you can observe the type of play that other children exhibit and how they treat each other. This will help you select those friendships that you wish to promote as you help your child’s social circle grow.

Help Them Build Social Skills

In addition to helping your child build friendships, it is important that they build good social skills. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Teach your child how to start a conversation. This may be the biggest and earliest hurdle as we all want to put our best foot forward. Helping your child identify their interests so they can seek out children with similar interests can be the beginning for starting a conversation.
  • Teach them how to keep a conversation going by exchanging ideas and opinions, acknowledging that topics and other ideas may change as the conversation progresses.
  • Teach them how to read facial gestures so they can be empathetic with the other kid. By being understanding, they can foster a deeper relationship.
  • Teach them how to recognize pauses in the conversation so they can give the other kid an opportunity to talk.
  • Teach them how loud or soft-spoken they need to be depending on the setting. For example, yelling may be common when playing at the playground, but being soft-spoken may be better when talking one on one.
  • Teach your child about personal space and keeping their hands to themselves. Some kids get excited when they are trying to make new friends and tend to invade personal space. They should learn that other children may not feel comfortable with that type of action.

All these suggestions will need to be practiced at home, so your child learns these skills and becomes confident. Pretend play and pretend scenarios can be a good place to start!

References

Let the Children Come to Me

“Let the children come to me” is a line from one of my favorite stories of the bible, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+18%3A1-5&version=NIV.  It is a point of intersection where the disciples are feeling annoyed and irritated by the children playing around, feeling perhaps some element of pride as they think they know better what is needed for a teaching moment.  And then, there’s Jesus wanting to highlight the simplicity and humility of children.

It was the end of this summer when I found myself reflecting on this story.  The air felt warm, although it was tempered by a slight breeze.  The clear blue sky with occasional cloud gave me energy and excitement for soccer practice that day.  As I finished lacing up my soccer shoes, I saw the middle-Schoolers roll in for practice.  We were in pre-season and about two weeks away from our first game.

I was an assistant coach last year and I’m doing it again this year.  My responsibilities are not as heavy as the head coach’s job, but I have been wondering if I would like to get back into that position.  There’s a certain excitement that goes along with managing a team, in particular as it relates to teaching children how to play the game, from developing their individual technical skills to learning the tactical aspect of how to play as a team.  The last team I coached was a competitive U19 travel team before I decided to take a break a few years ago.  Now I’m looking at a group of kids who have a wide range of skill, from never having played on a team to some who are playing travel soccer.

As we went through practice, I found myself following instructions and commands from the head coach to help the kids with their drills.  It was in this state of humility that I found myself in the Ignatian style of prayer one more time with Jesus in the foreground.  We were in Capernaum where Jesus had done many teachings.  The weather was comfortably warm with a slight breeze coming from the west.  The simple tunic I wore seemed cool enough as we sat in the shade.  The houses were close by and there were multiple open areas for children to play.  As Matthew in Chapter 18 recounted the story, “at that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, who he put among them, and said, “truly, I tell you unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” 1

I thought of this story and realized that being an assistant to help these children of God was actually a gift that God had given me to help me be more humble and more obedient.  I desire nothing more than to be God’s servant so that I can be one with Jesus as I set my sights in God’s kingdom.  It is only in this state of accepting humbly and receiving God’s love that I can return love to God.

Now two weeks later from that soccer practice, I find myself in mass today contemplating the first reading from Jeremiah and the love he is feeling for God.  Jeremiah finds himself at odds with the chief officer Pashhur in the house of the Lord.  After Jeremiah’s prophecies that terror will beset Jerusalem, Pashhur “struck the prophet and put him in the stocks at the upper gate of Benjamin in the House of the Lord.” (Jer 20:2)

Jeremiah finds himself in internal turmoil and exclaims, “you duped me Lord, and I let myself be duped.  You were too strong for me, and you prevailed.  All day long I am the object of laughter; everyone mocks me.” (Jer 20:7).

But despite his internal struggle, he cannot contain his love for God: “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name.  But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.  I grow weary holding back, I cannot.” (Jer 20:9)

This living flame of God, as St. John of the Cross explains in his book2, consumes my heart and wants me to do nothing else but to please God.  I want to get close to God, but I have to do it from a humble position, obedient to God and to God’s people.  Only by being like a simple child, pure in heart and feeling free with the Holy Spirit, can I “go here or there,” and be God’s servant, can I be more like Jesus.

Psalm 63:2-9 pops into my head, a psalm of David when he has in the wilderness of Judah.  I rest in God’s arms as I pray this psalm3:

Oh, God, you are my God –

it is you I seek!

for you, my body yearns;

for you, my soul thirsts

in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.

I look to you in the sanctuary

to see your power and glory

for your love is better than life;

my lips shall ever praise you!

I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.

My soul shall be sated as with choice food,

with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!

I think of you upon my bed,

I remember you through the watches of the night.

you indeed are my savior,

And in the shadow of your wings, I shout for joy.

My soul clings fast to you, your right hand upholds me.

References

  1. Matthew 18: 1-5. Bible Gateway, New International Version.
  2. The Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross. Cosimo Classics, New York, 2007.  Translation by David Lewis.
  3. Psalm 63, New American RE Bible in Laudate App, https://catholicapps.com/laudate/

Heading Back to School Safety Tips

It is hard to believe that summer is coming to an end and September is just around the corner. This means that kids are heading back to school to enjoy another year of friendships and academic learning. To ensure that your child has a good experience this school year, here are some safety tips to keep in mind. Consider reviewing some of these tips with your child and discussing with them why they are important.

Walkers:

  • Always use public sidewalks; if there is no sidewalk and you must walk in the street, walk facing the traffic
  • Always look both ways before crossing the street. Do not enter the street from between objects like parked cars, signs, trees or shrubbery.
  • Teach children to recognize and obey the traffic signals, signs and the pavement markings
  • Never dart out in front of a parked car
  • Parents: Practice walking to school with your child, crossing streets at crosswalks when available. Have a pre-established route that you both agree upon.
  • Walking with friends is always safer than alone.
  • Review your rule of talking with strangers. Never get into a car without parent’s knowledge and permission.
  • Never walk while texting or talking on the phone
  • Do not walk while using headphones

Bike Riders:

  • Always wear a helmet that is fits properly.
  • Check with the school at what age children can ride their bikes to school.
  • Children need to know the rules of the road: Ride single file on the right side of the road, come to a complete stop before crossing the street and walk the bike across
  • Practice the route to and from school
  • Ride bike with friends; there is safety in numbers.
  • Watch for opening car doors and other hazards
  • Use hand signals when turning
  • Wear bright-colored clothing

Bus Riders:

  • Arrive early to the bus stop so your child is not tempted to cut corners or run across the street while trying to catch the bus.
  • Line up six feet away from the curb as the bus approaches
  • When riding the school bus, wait for the bus to stop completely before standing. Make sure the bus comes to a complete stop before getting off the bus.
  • Do not shout or distract the driver.
  • Do not walk in the driver’s “blind spot” — this is the area from the front of the bus to about 10 feet in front of the bus.

Teen Drivers:

  • No texting while driving.
  • Do not take a call on your phone unless you have a hands-free option in your car.
  • Don’t change the music on your phone while driving
  • Plan to get to school early.  Accidents increase and defensive driving goes down when you are in a hurry to get to school.
  • Slow down for school zones
  • Students with a level two driver’s license in Michigan cannot take more than one passenger under the age of 21 in the car (with some exceptions)
  • https://www.michigan.gov/sos/faqs/license-and-id/drivers-under-18

More Resources

As we think about other topics of safety in the school environment, you can visit the State of Michigan web’s page for more information.

References

The Feast of Mary Magdalene

We celebrate on July 22nd, the Feast of Mary Magdalene.  We know little about Mary but there seem to be some generally accepted truths:  there were women who accompanied Jesus on his mission, some who had been cured of evil spirits, among them Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-2); Mary Magdalene is among the women who witness Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25); and Mary is the first to visit the empty tomb, tell the apostles, and then encounters the resurrected Jesus (John 20: 1-18).

 Perhaps the story that I can relate the most is when she comes back after Peter and John have raced to see the empty tomb.  As I place myself in the scene and let my imagination participate in the Ignatian style, meditative contemplation, I can feel Mary’s anguish and pain.   It has been less than three days since Jesus was crucified.  I’m having a hard time understanding why the Romans would crucify him, he seemed to be such a good person, kind and merciful.  His unconditional love touched all of us and advised us to turn the other cheek when trouble and insults would arise.   Even the Jewish elders were angry at him and wanted him to go away.  I could feel Jesus’ love for me and how he touched my heart.  The whole crucifixion seemed so barbaric with so much bleeding, it just did not seem fair!

We wanted to give Jesus a proper burial on Friday instead of leaving him on the cross, and now it seems the Romans have taken him.  Or was it the gardener.   I watch Mary as she interacts with the angels inside the tomb as noted in the Gospel of John:

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.  (John 20: 1-18, NIV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+20%3A1-18&version=NIV

How often have I found myself in Mary’s position, stuck in my own feelings of pain and sadness after an adverse event, wondering where was Jesus so he could help me out?  It has been easy to be blinded by my own preoccupations, particularly if I’m feeling strongly that I want to do things my own way, make things better by myself.

But as I humble myself, acknowledging that I am so dependent on God and I am not much without God, I can feel the gardener become Jesus who looks at me and says, “John, I am right here.  I have always been with you to guide you, to take care of you because you belong to me, you are one of mine.  Your load may feel heavy, but I am here to lighten it.  Let me love you and have mercy on you so we can go together to our Father.”

As my eyes become cloudy, I let Jesus put his arm around me and we walk together.   I am no longer wondering where Jesus’ body has been placed, I know he has ascended to be with our father.  Hopefully, it will not be long before it’s my turn to ascend and be with the Holy Trinity.

Thank you, Lord, for taking care of me, for guiding me, for giving me your unconditional love, for having mercy on me.  May we rest in your peace.

Tips for staying safe near water this summer

As we head into the summer, I thought I would share with you some tips for staying safe near the water this summer.  Here are some statistics to think about.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • There are 4,000 unintentional fatal drownings every year in the U.S.
  • There are 8,000 unintentional non-fatal drownings every year in the U.S.
    • Nearly 40% of non-fatal drownings treated in the emergency departments require further hospitalization
  • More kids in the 1-4 years old age range die from drowning than any other cause of death

Drowning is one of the most common forms of unintentional deaths amongst kids and teens in the U.S. With the right preparation and training, we can help prevent accidental drowning.

Who is Most at Risk for Drowning?

Children ages 1-4

Kids between the ages of 1-4 are more likely than any other age group to drown. With this age group, drowning is most common when the child was not expected to be near water. This includes children gaining access to an unsupervised pool. In fact, home swimming pools are the most common drowning site for kids ages 1-4.

Older teens and adults

In the 15-year-old and older group, most drownings occur in natural water settings (lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.). Moreso, around 80% of young adults and adults who die from drowning are male. Why might this be? Many of these drownings are connected to alcohol and high-risk activities. If you have a teen at home, I highly encourage you to share this article with them as we approach summer.

Non-Age-Related Risk Factors

People with certain medical conditions like seizures, autism or a heart condition are also at an increased risk for unintentional drowning. For people with a seizure disorder, the bathtub is the most common site for unintentional drowning. If a loved one suffers from a medical condition where they may lose control of their body or may not be able to safely care for themselves in a stressful situation, be sure to pay extra attention when they are near water.

Prevention is Key to Avoiding Drowning

So how do we make our environment safer and reduce the risk of drowning? Have a layered approach to water safety. This means:

  1. Have multiple safety steps in place to avoid accidents before they happen.
  2. Educate yourself and your children on how to stay safe in and around water.

Here are some tips from CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website (healthychildren.org), and AAP patient education handouts.

Swim Lessons

It is never too early to get your child into swim lessons! You can find local swim lessons for kids starting at 4-6 months. At this early age, lessons are for both baby and parent and are focused on getting your little one comfortable in the water. As your child gets a little older, typically pre-school age, lessons should include basic swimming skills and water safety.

Home Pool

  • Fences:
    • The best option for securing a home pool is to install a fence that is at least 4 feet tall around all 4 sides of the pool. Ideally, this fence is not connected to the house. The gate to the pool should open out from the pool and have a self-close and self-latch that children can’t reach. Why is this important? Just as it is important to keep animals or neighbors out of your pool, you also need to protect your own pets and children from entering the pool without your knowledge.
    • If your pool is fenced in, but not separate from the house, install a secondary fence or net around all four sides of the pool. There are many designs and options available. No matter what, be sure that your pool is secured at all times.
  • Make sure your back door facing the pool has an alarm that will make noise when opened. Consider having locks adjusted to a height that cannot be reached by young children.
  • Children can be tricky and fast, so think about installing window guards on windows facing the pool. Reconsider pet doors that have access to the pool.
  • Make sure you have rescue equipment nearby. Consider equipment that is made of fiberglass or another material that does not conduct electricity.
  • Have life jackets that fit each of your children based on their size and age, as recommended by U.S. Coast Guard and tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Remember, “floaties” are not a substitute for life jackets. They can create a false sense of security.

Diving

Learning to dive is exciting for a kid. However, diving in shallow areas can result in major injuries like neck/spinal cord injuries, head trauma, and potential life-long disability. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind as you talk with your child about diving safety:

  • Never dive in shallow water! Teach your kids to recognize when water is shallow or deep. It may be easier to see how deep the water is in in a pool, but you often can’t see the bottom of open water. When jumping in the water for the first time, always enter feet first.
  • Avoid diving into aboveground pools.
  • Avoid diving through inner tubes or other pool toys.

Water Safety in the Open Water

  • Never swim without adult supervision. No matter how old you are or how good of a swimmer you may be, it is always a good idea to have at least one person with you when swimming in open water.
  • Never dive into water unless you know how deep it is. For kids, they should know not to dive into a pool unless an adult says it is safe.
  • When boating, riding on a personal watercraft, fishing, waterskiing or playing in a river or stream, wear an approved personal flotation device (life jacket or life vest). This is important for both kids and adults. Water wings and other blow-up swimming aids (“floaties”) should not be used in place of life jackets.
  • Never try water sports such as skiing, scuba diving or snorkeling without instructions from a qualified teacher.
  • Never swim around anchored boats, in motorboat lanes, or where people are waterskiing.
  • Never swim during electrical storms.
  • If you swim or drift far from shore, stay calm and tread water, or float on your back until help arrives.
  • Teach your child to know their limits:
    • When they are too tired
    • When they are too cold
    • When they are too far from safety
    • When they have had too much sun
    • When they have had too much hard activity

Exceeding these limitations can set them up for danger.

Aside from lakes, rivers and ponds, other water hazards you may find around your house include canals, ditches, postholes, wells, fishponds and fountains. Watch your child closely if they are playing near any of these areas!

Life Jackets and Life Preserves

  • Always have a life preserver if you are in open water. This may seem obvious for kids, but it is important for adults too. I personally swam in college, and I still find that wearing a life vest while in a lake makes it easier for me to rescue a child in trouble.
  • Have your child wear a life jacket that is approved by the U. S. Coast Guard and was tested by the Underwriter Laboratories (UL). In addition, the jacket should fit for your child’s weight and age.
  • Teach your child how to put on a life jacket correctly.
  • Remember that “floaties” do not replace life jackets. This includes blow-up wings, rafts, noodles or air mattresses.

Water Safety Around the House

  • Never leave an infant or young child alone in the bathtub. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye!
  • Empty large buckets of water when you are done with a project. Infants and toddlers can fit their heads in the buckets and stay stuck.
  • Consider bathroom doorknob locks or covers. Young children could wander into the bathroom and run the bathwater without adult supervision.
  • Consider getting a toilet lid latch so toddlers don’t play with the toilet water. Toddlers could stick their heads in the toilet and get stuck.

Be Prepared for an Emergency

  • Learn how to perform CPR. For all the technology we have in the intensive care units, the two bigger variables in helping a child survive a near-drowning event are:
    • Reducing the time the victim is under water.
    • Being ready and able to perform CPR when the victim is rescued from the water.

CPR classes are available throughout the community. Check bronsonhealth.com/classes as well as the local YMCAs and the American Red Cross.

If you are in an emergency, remember to dial 911 as soon as the drowning victim is pulled from the water.

(This article was originally published on May 25, 2023 at Bronson’s web page)

References

The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

This coming Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Spirit.  As I contemplate this feast, memory takes me back to my battles with cancer.

In October of 2012, I found myself wondering if I was developing multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells from my bone marrow.  On a routine physical exam and blood work we found a protein that was elevated, suggesting this cancer as a possibility.  I had battled testicular cancer when I was in my mid-twenties with subsequent relapses in 1998 and 2000, so it was not fun to contemplate having another bout with cancer.

The medical challenge caused me to go deep in prayer, and one more time, to work on my faith in God.  As I found myself contemplating the trees and leaves at a golf resort where my wife was attending a conference, I experienced a communion with the Holy Trinity and wrote this poem:

Your arms engulf me,

Your touch is delicate.

Not by the fire that purifies my soul,

But by your warmth, Father,

I realize you are here to console me.

My heart is at peace,

Weightless and without care,

For there are no regrets from yesterday,

No worries about tomorrow,

But simply joy in being here with you,

Joy to be here with my brothers and sisters.

As I rest in you

I feel complete.

I am in you,

And you are in me.1

This poem was in part inspired by Jesus’ high-priestly prayer where Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples, so that they may be one with the Father as Jesus is one with the Father.

God is calling us to be in relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Father engulfs us with God’s arms to take care of us and to love us, to understand our shortcomings and to give us mercy.  It is an energy that flows with the Holy Spirit, which listens to the Father and Son and imparts knowledge, wisdom, and love to our hearts.  The Son, the Word incarnate, in full communion the Holy Spirit, has become visible and audible to what God wants us to see and hear.  Jesus came into the world so that we could see and hear how God wants us to be.  Everything the Father has He gives to the Son, so we too can have what the Father has.  Seeing God in person through Jesus helps us relate better to God.  God wants us to be in relationship with God, and we can do this if we acknowledge and realize that the Holy Trinity dwells in our hearts.

We have just celebrated the Pentecost as we awaited the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  It is the tradition of our Western and Catholic church that the solemnity of the Holy Trinity comes the following Sunday after Pentecost.  We started this relationship with the Holy Spirit with our baptism as the Holy water was washed over our heads.  Now through our lives, we have been asked to take a risk in developing this relationship with God so that then, as Pope Benedict XVI states in Benedictus, “to risk giving oneself to the other can great love ensue.”2

When we make the choice to be in relationship with Jesus and learn how God wants us to be as God made us out to be, we take a step in the direction of risking and leaving behind the type of life we have.  With the Holy Spirit burning in our hearts, we can make decisions daily to live as Jesus lived, imparting love, understanding and charity to all.

We are invited to share in this relationship within the Holy Trinity, to experience this energy of Three in One to help stabilize us from the chaos of the material world.  In turn, we are invited and called to be in harmony with our community as we share the energy, love, and charity of the Holy Trinity with each other.  Then, as a community, can we then reflect our world in the truth as God intended it to be.

Saints help us learn of God’s ways.  One such saint is St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, who was born in 1880 in France and grew up near Dijon which had a Carmelite monastery.  After reading the original and first edition of St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul, she decided to become a Carmelite nun.  She died of Addison’s disease at the age of 26.  Pope Francis canonized her as a saint in October 2016.3

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity is known for her poem, “Oh My God, Trinity Whom I Adore.”

“O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling, and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole, and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.”4

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, pray for us!

References

  1. Finding God Again and Again by John Spitzer
  2. Benedictus, Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Ignatius Press, Magnificat 2006.
  3. Catholic News Agency & St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
  4. spiritualdirection.com & St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

The Solemnity of St. John Bosco

We celebrate on January 31st the Solemnity of St. John Bosco, who founded the Salesians of Don Bosco who give assistance and educate the poor children across the world.

Learning about St. John Bosco in Colombia

I remember when I first entered the catholic schools in first grade.  I wondered about the priests’ white cassocks and if these outfits made them closer to God.  There was a mysticism about their behavior and how they conducted themselves: adults with wisdom and knowledge who commanded respect and obedience, but also had a sense of humor and seemed kind, and easy to talk with.  I wanted to get close to them, but not too close.  Making the jump from a public kindergarten to a catholic school seemed to have enough unknowns.  I needed to make new friends, meet new teachers, learn about the new classrooms and the cafeteria.   I even wondered if the students at San Juan Bosco elementary in Cali, Colombia, South America, were different children from me, or whether they were they just like me.

With time, I became more comfortable in the new school environment.  I made new friends and became acquainted with my new teacher, who fortunately knew both English and Spanish.  When we moved to Cali, Colombia that year, I only knew English.  Learning Spanish was a challenge, but I made friends who were eager to teach me their language as much as they wanted to learn some words in English.  As I progressed in elementary, I came to appreciate the school’s teachings of compassion, kindness, and care for the poor.  With time, these virtues became a way of life for me, and today I thank Don Bosco for helping me be God’s instrument.

Who was St. John Bosco?

As we celebrate the Solemnity of St. John Bosco, I think about his life and the challenges he had during his mission.  Born Giovanni Bosco in 1815, he lost his father at the age of two and was raised, along with his 2 older brothers, by his mother Margherita.  They were a poor family in Turin, Italy, where John worked as a farmer and shepherd.  Despite their difficult financial circumstances and food limitations, they felt a strong sense of duty to feed the poor and hungry.  John became a priest at the age of 26 years, founded the Salesian Order in 1859, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934, giving him the title of “Father and Teacher of the Youth.”

Dreams became an important way for God to communicate with Don Bosco.  At the age of nine, he had his first prophetic dream where he found himself with a group of children who were being mean to each other, swearing and hitting each other.  A man whose face was filled with light and dressed in a white flowing mantle appeared and told him, “You will have to win these friends not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness.1” Thus began his vocation and dedication to children.  Later in his teen years, he learned to perform magic, acrobatics, and tricks after watching a circus perform in town.  He used these tricks to get children’s attention and then discuss with them the homilies from the mass.  At this point in his life, he discerned he wanted to become a priest.2

His style of work leaned on being patient, kind and understanding.  Another dream that he had of walking on roses and thorns helped him develop perseverance.  He needed this virtue to tackle the obstacles he faced through his mission.  Government officials wanted him out of the way as they saw the homeless children as a nuisance and a danger; the entrepreneurs from the industrial revolution saw him as an obstacle to using the children for manual labor; he opposed the political fanatics who wanted to recruit the young for political gains; the bishop opposed his work, misunderstanding Don Bosco’s passion for pride; people from the “house of sin” near his oratory saw Don Bosco as an obstacle to their “business.”

But he was able to persevere because of his life in prayer.  In particular, he had a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother.  His way with children and teens, along with his sense of humor and teaching abilities, allowed many orphans to learn about God and learn trade skills for later in life.  Today, the Salesian brothers are present in 1,830 institutions in 128 countries.2

We all care for children

When I think about the people and circumstances of life that played a role in my choosing to care for children, I think about those years at San Juan Bosco elementary in Cali, Colombia.  As I contemplate the gift that God has given me to take care of children, I also think about all of us parents caring for our children, and the love we give them just as Jesus and Mary show their love for us.

Putting the final touches on this blog, I think of Jesus with his disciples.  Jesus had left Capernaum and had gone into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.  Children were coming to Him, and the disciples were becoming annoyed and indignant.  Reading from the gospel of Mark:

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.3

References:

  1. Don Bosco film, Ignatius Press 2012, San Francisco, CA. Booklet text by Tim Drake and Anthony Ryan.
  2. catholic.org and St. John Bosco
  3. Mark 10:14-16 in Biblegateway.com, NIV